Opening Day: Baseball Recollections

Sean McCormick
5 min readApr 7, 2022


Babe Ruth was quoted as saying, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games!” The Bambino certainly knew what he was talking about, but with the baseball season underway I still find it very easy to reminisce about my early radio reporting career — especially when it comes to BASEBALL!

My first experience of actually being paid to watch a major league baseball game was on April 12, 1983 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. I was covering the home opener for the Pirates for a 1,000 watt day-time radio station (back when FCC required such stations to shut down at sunset) located atop a hill in Canonsburg, PA. I had covered council meetings, local high school sports, etc. but this day I’d be sitting in the press box watching the baseball team I had been following since I was seven-years-old.

It wasn’t my first time in the Pirates press box. That occurred a few years earlier when, as a college sophomore working part-time as a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports clerk, a couple copy editors let me tag along for a dinner in the press box dining room and to watch a few innings from the press box (One of the editors handing me his press pass as he used his BBWA {Baseball Writers Association credential}). It was a great experience, but on this day I’d be an actual reporter at a professional sporting event.

As a born-and-raised Washington, PA native, traveling I-79 North to the Parkway West and through the Fort Pitt Tunnels to enter Pittsburgh has always been a bit exciting to me. Many will tell you, and I certainly agree, leaving the tunnel and immediately seeing Pittsburgh’s golden triangle is a very enjoyable moment. It was even more so for me that spring day.

Arriving at the stadium, I walked to the press gate. Pulling out my media pass, with my name on it, left me a tremendous feeling of validation. Taken for granted through the many future sporting events attended, this first time using the pass was special.

Up the elevator and walking to the area behind the press box, a combination dining room and post-game lounge. As I learned when covering elections while in college, folks in the media love free food and drinks — even more so when it comes to sports media. It’s here I have to again offer much gratitude to those P-G copy editors, as they initiated me into to pre-game process of eating at Three Rivers Stadium. Cafeteria-like line, you tell the food service workers what you wanted and definitely leave a nice tip in the bucket at the end of the line. (You may or may not be surprised how many ‘well paid’ media types didn’t do that.)

I ended up sitting with a couple of people I met while working as an intern at a television station while a college senior, another who was a college acquaintance, and a couple out-of-town media members. We talked sports, and how the Pirates started the season with five road wins. Then, we ventured out to the press box.

Unlike now, I’d say 99 percent of those sitting in the press box on the second level behind home plate were men. There were some of the older newspaper guys. A few who were the ‘Hollywood prototype’ reporter, complete with a lit cigar or cigarette and spouting off some of the cynical-speak that many would equally type into their respective newspaper columns. There were the various radio guys as well as those covering the game for the Pittsburgh TV stations.

I’ve never been great with remembering names, but the guy sitting to my right was Ken Mease a TV reporter I got to know from my internship. I don’t recall who was sitting to my left, but it was a packed house. Someone who was ‘holding court’ among the media walked through the tiers of reporters, collecting a couple bucks for the Opening Day attendance pool. I tossed the singles into the pot and handed him a paper with my name and attendance guess. I had like 45,000 as my guess. He looked at it and pointed me out. “This guy’s thinking about 45K are watching,” he bellows…followed by a number of guffaws and motions of disapproval from the ranks.

It’s game time. I’m enjoying this, and I haven’t even gotten to getting into the locker room to record interviews yet. Man, if I can just find a higher-paying gig which allows me to do this I will have it made. Anyway, we’re all chiming in about the players and what they’ll pick as their ‘walk-up’ songs when striding up to the plate (Yep, it’s been that long ago when ‘walk-ups’ became common…but in ’83 it’s the organist not the ASCAP-royaltied recording). On-deck for St. Louis is catcher Darrell Porter. This would have been prior to his book Snap Me Perfect! came out, but there had been publicity about his book deal. I leaned over to Mease and deadpanly asked, “Think Porter’s ‘walk-up’ will be ‘How Dry I Am?” It must have hit his funny bone, as he laughed heartily and quickly spread the joke down the line. Chuckles caromed throughout the row.

In addition to Porter, the Cardinals players included Keith Hernandez, Ozzie Smith, and George Hendrick. Yes, the same George Hendrick who later as a Pirate would get booed and chided by fans — and called out by the media — for walking to first base on a ground out. The Bucs had remnants of the ’79 World Series team; Bill Madlock, Kent Tekulve and Jim Bibby. Even Richie Hebner, a ’71 World Series participant, pinch-hit. Future key figures for the 1985 Pittsburgh ‘Drug Trials’ were also playing: Hernandez, Lonnie Smith for the Cardinals and Lee Mazzilli, Lee Lacy, Rod Scurry and Dale Berra for the Buccos.

As for the on-field play, Rick Rhoden battled on the mound through seven innings. His counterpart Dave LaPointe lasted 5 1/3 innings. Tied 3–3 after nine, Hernandez took advantage of a bad throw by Mazzilli in the 10th as he rammed into catcher Tony Pena to score. The Pirates loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning, only to have Madlock ground into a double play followed by a Gene Tenace harmless fly ball to end the game.

Following the game, I was among the media throng to enter to locker rooms to record interviews on my trusty hand-held Sony cassette player. I asked the standard questions, getting the standard sound bites. There was one memorable item. For the first time, of what would seem like every time, I would look on with other members of the media in the visiting manager’s office to interview Whitey Herzog — complete with sounds of his chomping on a post-game sandwich or sucking on his teeth to remove a particle of that sandwich lodged between the pearly whites.

Oh, remember the ‘guffaws and nay-sayer motions’ about my attendance guess? Well, I actually came closest to the 46,869 which entered the stadium turnstiles. I won a whopping $62.00 to top off the memorable day.



Sean McCormick

Turning the ‘complex’ into the ‘understandable!’ In Coaching & Leadership there is one constant — WRITING!